|Regionalisation has become an increasingly important phenomenon in a globalized world. As models of regional integration, the European Union (EU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are two prominent examples. This thesis seeks to explore through a comparative analysis, the different mechanisms and institutions for handling breaches against fundamental values within the two regional organizations. Inter-linked with the issue of the legal-institutional framework is that of what values the mechanisms are designed to protect. The method used for the analysis is first and foremost that of public international and European law, but the thesis also attempts to give a broader picture of the issues presented. For a deeper understanding of the EU and ASEAN perception and handling of fundamental values, two concrete cases are outlined, namely the “Haider affaire” in Europe and the ASEAN policy towards the repressive regime in Myanmar. Even though the aim of the thesis is to explore the situations within ASEAN and the EU, some aspects of the external relations between the regions are assessed in order to identify possible contentious areas due to differences in perspectives on fundamental values.
ASEAN and the EU share many traits. They both started out as peace projects created to ensure regional stability in turbulent times. But whereas ASEAN achieved this through strengthening the nation state, the EU on the other hand chose to bridge over the nation state. ASEAN dealt with its fragile relations through assurances of respect for national sovereignty and non-interference, whereas Europe in the aftermaths of WW2 set up supranational institutions in order to prevent the conflicts from resurging. This fundamental difference is reflected in the regions’ systems for protection of common values. The EU has a proactive approach with an explicit mechanism for preventing and sanctioning breaches of the Union’s fundamental values. ASEAN, on the other hand, has a reactive, pragmatic take on things, usually referred to as the “ASEAN Way”. Even though the actual consequences of the two systems might be similar given the highly political nature of these issues, the EU member states are subject to a constitutional discipline that would be unthinkable in ASEAN. The EU has reached consensus and elaborated certain norms regarding the member states’ behaviour towards their own citizens, i.e. democracy, protection of human rights and the rule of law. These are considered to be the constituting values of the EU – the “European values” that serve as the glue of integration in a heterogeneous region. In ASEAN, the common values mainly relate to state sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of each other. The “Asian values discourse” that has been influential on the ASEAN policy on human rights and democracy is sceptic towards Western universalist interpretations of human rights and rejects international accountability for such norms. The inclusion of principles regarding democracy and human rights in the new ASEAN Charter indicates a shift in policy within ASEAN. However, for the time being they can merely be seen as aspirations. What is clear is that questions of common values and regional identity are going to play an important function in a further integration-process in both regions.
The differences between the two regional entities should not conceal the fact that both ASEAN and the EU in the wake of their conflict-ridden history share the same overriding goals - to create peace and stability and to ensure economic development through regional cooperation and integration. Based on their mutual interests, ASEAN and the EU have committed to deepen and widen their partnership. Differences in their perspectives on fundamental values can affect these relations, especially with the EU policy of value promotion and conditionality in its external relations. However, given the mutual wish to maintain and develop good relations, more serious conflicts between ASEAN and the EU with regard to differences in the values they encompass should be able to be contained through flexibility and concessions on both sides.